Chapter 1 The Philosophy of the Guqin 古琴的哲學

In: Harmoniousness: Essays in Chinese Musicology
Jao Tsung-i
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Colin Huehns
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Jao Tsung-i’s celebrated essay on the philosophy of the qin comes to its climax in the ground-breaking notion that only when the qin is played without strings or making a sound is its purpose and matter truly understood. The circuitous and detailed route to this destination takes the reader in turn through the social context of qin performance, its moral content, ancient pedigree, repertory organisation, timbral characteristics, and spiritual dimensions. A subject clearly close to his heart, these are where the essence of the qin lies, and citations spill forth in close and persuasive succession, juxtaposing a close mesh of intertwining strands.

The subject matter covered by this essay is not orthodox discussion of the qin, namely its melody and mode, musical scores, fingering practices, and so on, but viewed from another angle, is instead the relationship between it and Chinese philosophy, and a combination of both methodologies could be regarded as approaching the same issue from two diametrically opposed directions to achieve the fullest understanding of it. The Chinese are fond of saying: ‘The intangible essence (or Way) and the tangible object in mutual compatibility;’ 道器相融; here, let the qin be ‘the tangible object’ and philosophy ‘the intangible essence’. ‘Manifestation that is of a lower order could be called a tangible object; manifestation that is of a higher order could be called an intangible essence.’ 形而下者謂之器,形而上者謂之道.1 This being so, I plan to take a journey from the ‘qin’ to its ‘intangible essence’ and discuss their relationship. In the past, the common chorus of most literati was to consider that ‘words were the medium for conveying intangible essence’, 文以載道, but the qin is in fact also an item that can convey intangible essence. The ‘qin essence’ (qindao 琴道) that is discussed here is not however van Gulik’s ‘Way of the Qin’ (琴道) (The Lore of the Chinese Lute).2 His so-called ‘Way’ in fact comprises only methods for playing the instrument, whereas the notion of a ‘qin essence’ is much more far-reaching. What might be regarded as the ‘essence’ or Way of the qin has a close connection to all three schools of Chinese religious thought—Confucian, Buddhist, and Daoist—and our examination will be from these perspectives.

1 The Qin and the Daily Life of the Scholar-Official

In ancient times, the musical instrument the guqin was often played by the scholarly (shi ) official class as a tool for edification. Records of Rites (Li ji 禮記), ‘Qu li xia’ 曲禮下 gives: ‘When there is no reason, the dafu minister does not remove his hanging musical instruments (principally bells, chimes, and drums); when there is no reason, the shi official does not remove his qin or se,’ 大夫無故不徹縣,士無故不徹琴瑟,3 and from this it can be seen that in the Spring and Autumn period, every shi official may well have had his own qin, and it would have been an essential part of his daily life. Therefore, The Book of Songs (Shijing 詩經; ‘Zheng feng’ 鄭風) gives: ‘(Like) qin and se played in harmony, would this not be excellent!’ 琴瑟在御,莫不靜好! (‘Zi yi’ 緇衣).4 Li ji, ‘Qu li shang’ 曲禮上 gives: ‘If the Master Teacher’s books of assembled bamboo writing slips and qin and se are in front (then, if necessary, the pupil should kneel down to move them aside and should not on any account step over them.)’ 先生書策,琴瑟在前.5

Xunzi (荀子; eponymous text by Xunzi [c.316–between 237 and 235 BCE] and others), ‘Yue lun’ (樂論; essay 20, found in juan 14): ‘The Gentleman, through the music of bells and drums, expresses his aspirations, yet through the qin and se gives pleasure to his heart.’ 君子以鐘鼓道志,以琴瑟樂心.6 Ying Shao (應劭, fl. Eastern Han dynasty) in Fengsu tongyi 風俗通義, ‘Shengyin pian’ (聲音篇 essay 6): ‘Of those instruments that the Gentleman customarily plays, the qin is his most intimate companion, and it never leaves his person, nor does it need to be displayed in the ancestral temple…. and even in the poorest alley or most ramshackle lane, the remotest mountains or darkest gorges, it is as if the qin is never absent. Regarding the qin’s dimensions, when it is of an appropriately medium size its sound will be harmonious … sufficient to harmonize with a person’s moods and measure, and to touch a person’s goodly heart…. and when at leisure, its unhurried placidity engenders thoughtfulness.’ 君子所常御者,琴最親密;不離于身,非必陳設于宗廟。……雖在窮閭陋巷,深山幽谷,猶不失琴。以爲琴之大小,得中而聲音和。……足以和人意氣, 感人善心。……閒居則爲從容以致思焉.7 The reason the qin can ‘give pleasure to the heart’ 樂心 is because it can ‘touch a person’s goodly heart and cause an unhurried placidity that engenders thoughtfulness.’ 感人的善心,使人從容以致思. Ying Shao’s passage is nothing less than a footnote to Xun Qing’s (荀卿, another name for Xunzi).

Guo Maoqian (郭茂, 1041–1099) in Yuefu shiji 樂府詩集, ‘Qinqu geci’ 琴曲歌辭 (juan 57–60, the opening to 57) records: ‘The qin was the means by which the founding ancestral ruler refined his corporeal frame and made rational his spiritual being, forbidding the perverse and preventing the lascivious, therefore when there is no reason, the Gentleman does not let it leave his person,’ 琴者,先王所以修身理性,禁邪防淫者也,故君子無故不去其身,8 which is sufficient proof that the qin was extremely helpful to the effort of cultivating physical and moral well-being.

2 Playing the Qin and Sounding Uprightness (Minglian 鳴廉)

Why was it that the Gentleman could not bear to be parted from the stringed instruments the qin and se? ‘Yue ji’ 樂記 (chapter 19 of Records of Rites) differentiates between instruments according to the materials from which they were made—metal, stone, silk, bamboo, animal skin, and wood—and attributes them their characteristics and meaning accordingly.

The sound of bell sets is resplendent, from resplendent sound comes the transmission of commands, from commands come courage, and from courage comes military prowess; thus, when the Ruler hears the sound of bell sets, he thinks of his generals. The sound of stone chime sets is clear, from clarity comes differentiation of truth, and from differentiation of truth comes death in its defence; thus, when the Ruler hears the sound of stone chime sets, he thinks of his ministers who are prepared to die in defence of the integrity of his realm. The sound of silk is plaintive, from the plaintive comes uprightness, and from uprightness comes fortitude; thus, when the Ruler hears the sound of the qin and se he thinks of his ministers who embody fortitude and righteousness.


According to the Huainanzi (淮南子; by Liu An 劉安, 179–122 BCE), in the early years of the Western Han dynasty, qin fingering practices were already comparatively complex. The essay ‘Xiuwu xun’ 修務訓 (juan 19) gives:

Nowadays, concerning those who are blind, whose eyes cannot distinguish night from day, or differentiate between white and black, they can however play their qin with panache, stroking the strings, using the cantan technique to play the strings together, and moving along the strings to find the hui nodes of vibration repeatedly and accurately, whether jue snatching, yuan pulling, biao striking, or fu pressing and caressing, their hands flying swiftly in all directions (like a mosquito), not missing a single string.



If a qin is plucked with the bola technique (or is out-of-tune or has come apart at the seams) and its wood is warped and weak, its sound will spread and dissipate, leaking out and producing wolf notes. And those that are called Chu Zhuang(wang, ruler of Chu, d. 591 BCE, r. 614–591 BCE) qin; palace concubines of the inferior side chambers vie to play them. (Gao You’s [fl. second–third centuries] exegetical notes give: ‘A variant given by some sources of “palace concubines of the inferior side chambers” is “ancestral temple halls”.’) … Qin made of the mountain paulownia tree with a resonating chamber that is of the wood of the catalpa tree of the mountain streams, although their sound is modest and unassuming, it is nonetheless clear and crisp, harmonious and balanced, and like that produced by the players Shi Tang (ancient) and Bo Ya (387–299 BCE). (Gao You’s notes give: ‘This means that the sound manifests uprightness and is crisp and clear; its notes are pure and cool, and their sound harmonious and balanced. The character used here for the player “Shi Tang” replaces the that is more normally used in this context [in modern Mandarin Chinese, both are pronounced in the same way “tang”]….’) An experienced person of sound scholarship is not like this (and when looking for a sword that can pierce the very vitals, yearns only for sharpness and not for one with simply a beautiful name, like for example, the celebrated blades Moyang 墨陽 and Moye 莫邪)…. Those who play a qin yearn for a sound that is replete with uprightness yet harmonious and balanced, and do not yearn for a sound that is overly threatening or issues commands like bell sets. (Gao You’s notes: ‘“Overly threatening” means that the sound is inharmonious; “issues commands like bell sets” means high- pitched, so much so that the ear cannot perceive its upper partials.’) Those who recite The Book of Songs and The Book of Documents yearn for the comprehension of indefinable wisdom and an understanding of the material world and do not yearn simply for the lexical layout of ‘Hong fan’ (chapter 32 [orthodox ‘old-text’ version], The Book of Documents) or ‘Shang song’ (poems 301–305 of The Book of Songs)….

琴或撥剌、枉橈,闊解漏越。而稱以楚莊之琴,側室(高誘注或作 「廟堂」)爭鼓之。……山桐之琴,澗梓之腹,雖鳴廉隅,修營唐牙。(高注: 「言其鳴音聲有廉隅修營。音清涼,聲和調。唐猶堂。……」)通人則不然……鼓琴者期于鳴廉修營,而不期于濫脅號鐘(高注: 「濫脅、音不和;號鐘、高聲、非耳所及也。」)誦《詩》、《書》者期于通道略物,而不期于〈洪範〉、《商頌》。……11

The fingering techniques biao ‘striking’ and fu ‘pressing and caressing’ as well as bola ‘plucking’ were already well-known and used in Liu An’s time. The state of Chu was not only famous for its se, but Chu Zhuang(wang)’s qin was also liked by all. Regarding the purpose behind playing the qin, the driving force was to cultivate uprightness and not simply the pursuit of beauty in sound. The qin and se are both stringed instruments but it is the qin whose most representative moral quality was uprightness, and which was called ‘sounding uprightness’ (itself the name of celebrated ancient qin). ‘From uprightness comes fortitude,’ therefore, on hearing the sound of the qin and se, the ruler will think of ‘his ministers who embody fortitude and righteousness’.

3 The Qin and ‘Ya’ and ‘Song’

According to legend, the qin originated with Di Jun’s (帝俊, mythological) descendant Yan Long (晏龍, mythological), and it was Yan Long who first made the qin and the se. (Shanhai jing 山海經, ‘Hainei jing’ 海內經).12 It is also recorded that ‘Fuxi (one of the three mythical emperors; also called Fuxi 伏羲) made the se and Shennong (god of agriculture and another of the three mythical emperors) made the qin.’ 宓犠作瑟,神農作琴.13 (Shi ben 世本; lost Warring States text) These references are all mythological and nothing in them can be taken as proof. What then was the ancient qin really like? Owing to a paucity of actual specimens as evidence, we are not entirely clear. At present, all that is known is that in ancient times there were either five-stringed or multi-stringed qin. As Er ya 爾雅 (section seven, ‘Shi yue’ 釋樂) says: ‘The large version of the qin is called a “li”.’ 大琴謂之離.14 It was strung with twenty-seven strings. Unearthed specimens are extremely helpful regarding clarifying the true historical picture, for example, from Changsha 長沙 and Xinyang 信陽, finds include examples of the se. From the Han dynasty come clay figurines of both listening to the qin and playing it, such as were discovered in the late Eastern Han dynasty Tianhui 天迴 mountain cliff-face tomb no. 3 in Chengdu. A clay replica qin is 42cm in length and at its left end is a cylindrical supporting column, while on its central register are six small nodules, though its form and manufacture await further research.15 The player is seated on a mat on the floor and the qin itself slanted on a low lacquered table. In addition, there is also a scene of music and dancing moulded on to a clay tablet in relief, and here the player has his head raised and is looking sideways as if giving an accompaniment to the dancers. The actual format in the Han dynasty for playing the qin can thus be seen. All this is proof that at that time the qin was employed to provide an accompaniment, for example, to harmonise with singing in musical genres of this kind.

From the Spring and Autumn period to the Han dynasty, written records indicate the terms ‘praise-qin’ (song qin 頌琴), ‘elegant-qin’ (ya qin 雅琴), and so on. The appellation ‘praise-qin’ comes from The Zuo Commentary (Zuo zhuan 左傳; traditionally attributed to Zuo Qiuming 左丘明, fl. late Spring and Autumn period), ‘Duke Xiang’ (‘Xiang Gong’ 襄公, 575–542 BCE, r. 572–542 BCE; chapter 9), ‘The Second Year of his Reign’ (‘Er nian’ 二年): ‘Mu Jiang (dates uncertain; widow of the deceased Duke Xuan of Lu 魯宣公, d. 591 BCE, r. 608–591 BCE) selected fine wood of the jia tree and had herself made a chen coffin and a praise-qin.’ 穆姜擇美檟,自以爲櫬與頌琴.16 The Han dynasty had however the elegant-qin; Han shu 漢書, ‘Yiwen zhi’ 藝文志 (juan 30) contains records that list: ‘For the elegant-qin, seven compositions by Master Zhao (untraceable); for the elegant-qin, eight compositions by Master Shi (untraceable); for the elegant-qin, ninety-nine compositions by Master Long (untraceable).’ 雅琴趙氏七篇,雅琴師氏八篇,雅琴龍氏九十九篇.17 Unfortunately, the books containing these works are all lost. In ancient times, other instruments were honoured with the prefixes ‘elegant’ and ‘praise’, for example, in The Book of Etiquette and Ceremonial (Yili 儀禮; Warring States period) ‘praise-qing stone chimes’ (song qing 頌磬) are mentioned.18 Similarly, the qin and se are also called ‘praise-se’ (song se 頌瑟) and ‘elegant-qin’; the elegant-qin had twenty-three strings, the praise-se had twenty-five strings (see Sanli tu 三禮圖 [by Nie Chongyi 聶崇義, fl. tenth century]).19 The numbers of strings on the elegant-se and praise-qin are not known.

The elegant-qin and praise-qin were probably made in order to match the ‘Ya’ and ‘Song’ sections of The Book of Songs. The ancients read The Book of Songs not as literature to be appreciated, and it had instead the purpose of ‘imbuing integrity into ethics and mellowing and maturing the educative process’, 厚人倫,美教化,20 which means that the elegant-qin had an intimate relationship to Confucian thought. Jiang Kui (姜夔, 1154–1221; also called Jiang Baishi 姜白石) of the Song dynasty in his (Da) yue yi [大]樂議: ‘In ancient times, given that there was a large qin, there was also a large se; given that there was a medium-sized qin, there was also a medium-sized se; given that there was an elegant-qin and a praise-qin, there was also an elegant-se and a praise-se, and this encompassed how the categories coalesced.’ 古者大琴則有大瑟,中琴則有中瑟;有雅琴、頌琴,則雅瑟、頌瑟實爲之合.21 It can thus be seen that both qin and se had ‘elegant’ and ‘praise’ manifestations that matched one another, and in the era of ‘three hundred songs to the accompaniment of stringed instruments’ 絃詩三百 were performed on as such.22

4 Music’s Unifying Leadership (yuetong 樂統) and the Qin’s Virtuous Morality (qinde 琴德)

Moving on to the Han dynasty, the significance attributed to the qin went through another important transformation, which can only be studied and explained through meanings derived from negative connotations. Liu Xin (劉歆, c.50 BCE–23 CE) in Qi lüe 七略 (the complete text was lost in the Tang dynasty) gives: ‘As for the elegant-qin: “qin” is a synonym for “constrain”; “elegant” is synonym for “rectitude”; the Gentleman should abide by rectitude in order to constrain himself.’ 雅琴: 琴之言禁也;雅之言正也;君子守正以自禁也.23 Baihu tong 白虎通 (by Ban Gu 班固, 32–92 CE; juan 2, the latter half: ‘Liyue pian’ 禮樂篇): ‘The qin embodies restraint.’ 琴者,禁也. (The character [‘se’, meaning the se zither] is also given similar linguistic treatment: ‘The se embodies thrift.’ 瑟者,嗇也.24) Discussing Writing and Explaining Characters (Shuowen jiezi 說文解字; by Xu Shen 許慎, 58–147 CE; juan 12, under a radical in its own right) also adopts this wording: ‘“Qin”, means “constrain”.’ 琴、禁也.25 Xu Kai (徐鍇, 920–974) in Shuowen jiezi xizhuan 說文解字繫傳 also records: ‘(The qin is) that which the Gentleman employs to constrain and control himself,’ (琴),君子所以自禁制也,26 which also directly inherits and extends Han dynasty usage.27

The qin is positioned as rectifying the human heart, and this theory had wide currency in the Han dynasty; thus, within contemporary principles of music, the elegant-qin occupied a leadership and governing role and was regarded as ‘music’s unifying leadership’. Imperial Readings of the Taiping Era (Taiping yulan 太平御覽; an encyclopedia compiled in 977–783; juan 579) quotes Fengsu tongyi (‘Shengyin pian’): ‘The instrument known as the elegant-qin provides music’s unifying leadership. Therefore, the qin, in the utterance of words, means to constrain, whilst elegance, in the utterance of words, means to rectify.’ 雅琴者,樂之統也。琴之爲言禁也,雅之爲言正也.28 The reason for this is that the qin embodies communal moral values. The mutual relationship of virtuous morality and music was frequently discussed in early writings on music. ‘Yue ji’, ‘Marquis Wen of Wei’ (‘Wei Wenhou’ 魏文侯; chapter 7; Marquis Wen of Wei: ruler of the state of Wei, 472–396 BCE, r. 445–396) gives: ‘Virtuous morality in sound is called “music”.’ 德音之謂樂.29 (‘Virtuous morality in sound’ is also the opposite of ‘degenerate sound’ [ruo yin 弱音].) (‘Yue xiang’ 樂象; chapter 5): ‘When music is widely practised, the people will proceed whither they should, and virtuous morality is to be observed. Virtuous morality is the epitome of essential characteristics; music is the blossoming of virtuous morality.’ 樂行而民鄉方,可以觀德矣。德者,性之端也;樂者,德之華也.30 In this way, virtuous morality had become the fundamental substance of music, and music had itself become ‘virtuous morality in sound’. The qin is ‘music’s unifying leadership’ and intimately related to virtuous morality, and thus the Han dynasty called the qin ‘virtuous morality in music’ (deyue 德樂); for example, Liu Xiang’s (劉向, 77–6 BCE) ‘Yaqin fu’ 雅琴賦 is clear evidence of this: ‘Roving a thousand hearts to be thus widely observed is the tranquil stillness of virtuous morality in music.’ 遊千心以廣觀,且德樂之 愔愔.31 Therefore, since the Han dynasty, those writing about the qin have often composed praises of ‘the qin’s virtuous morality’.

Huan Tan (桓譚, 23 BCE–56 CE) in his Xin lun 新論 (juan 16, ‘The Way of the Qin’ [‘Qin dao’ 琴道]): ‘Instruments made of the Eight Materials encompass all musical possibilities, but of these the virtuous morality of the qin reigns supreme.’ 八音廣博,琴德最優.32 Ma Rong (馬融, 79–166) ‘Qin fu’ 琴賦: ‘(In the past, Shi) Kuang would thricely play with broadened heart and the spiritly beings descend to this world; how profound the virtuous morality of the qin!’ [昔師]曠三奏而神物下降,何琴德之深哉.33 (Shi Kuang: fl. late Spring and Autumn period) Ji Kang’s (嵇康, 224–263 or 223–262) ‘Qin fu’ 琴賦: ‘Amongst all the assembled musical instruments, the virtuous morality of the qin reigns supreme.’ 眾器之中,琴德最優.34 ‘If someone is not of vision broad and distant, I cannot take amusement and journey with him; if someone is not of profundity and stillness, I cannot be at leisure and sojourn with him; if someone is not free-spirited and enlightened, I cannot treat him without being miserly; if someone is not the quintessence of refinement, I cannot analyse and dissect reason with him.’ 非夫曠遠者不能與之嬉遊,非夫淵靜者不能與之閑止,非夫放達者不能與之無吝,非夫至精者不能與之析理.35 ‘Render the centricity of the totality harmonious to unify and lead all things, and then even through the usage of all the days, nothing is lost.’ 總中和以統物,咸日用而不失.36 Also: ‘Tranquil stillness, the qin’s virtuous morality, cannot be measured.’ 愔愔琴德,不可測兮.37

Han dynasty scholars who postulated regarding the qin’s virtuous morality were comparatively numerous. What then is ‘Tranquil stillness, the qin’s virtuous morality’? Note: The two characters 愔愔 (‘yinyin’) that are translated here as ‘tranquil stillness’ come from The Zuo Commentary (Chapter 10, ‘Duke Zhao’ [‘Zhao Gong’ 昭公; d. 510 BCE, r. 542–510 BCE], the twelfth year of his reign) and the phrase ‘tranquil stillness of Qi Zhao (the name of a piece of music).’ 祈招之愔愔.38 There are several explanations of this word: Du (Yu 杜預, 222–285) Chunqiu Zuoshi jingzhuan jijie 春秋左氏經傳集解: ‘(This word means) peaceful and harmonious.’ 安和貌.39 Hanshi shuo 韓詩說: ‘harmonious and contented in appearance;’ 和悅貌.40 Notes on the Selections of Refined Literature (Wenxuan 文選; compiled by Xiao Tong 蕭統, 501–531), ‘Qin fu’ (by Ji Kang), notes by the (Tang dynasty) Five Ministers (wu chen 五臣) including Li Zhouhan (李周翰, fl. eighth–ninth centuries): ‘(This word means) silent and profound.’ 靜深也.41 Somewhere located along the continuum from ‘silent and profound’ to ‘harmonious and contented’ is its primal meaning.

5 Chang Pieces and Cao Pieces

When considering the different genres of qin pieces, other than cao (‘working-out’) pieces, there are also chang (‘progressing’) pieces and yin ( ‘introductory’) pieces. Chang pieces are the opposite of cao pieces. In Yuefu shiji, there is only one chang piece: ‘Shenren chang’ 神人暢, see Gujin yuelu 古今樂錄 (compiler: Shi Zhijiang 釋智匠, fl. sixth century), which narrates connections between Heaven and mankind. In addition, the ancients mostly emphasized pieces in the cao form, that is, those that concentrated on working out a particular idea; whereas chang pieces perhaps represented ‘prominence’ (in government; da ) or ‘connecting’, cao expressed ‘(the discipline of working in) adversity’ (qiong ); chang is the practice of worldly governance or ‘connecting’; ‘adversity’ is the practice of solitary self-cultivation, an anxiety that is itself manifested as cao. Ma Ruichen (馬瑞辰, 1777 or 1782–1853) of the Qing dynasty in his xu introduction to Qin cao 琴操 gives: ‘There is not one single form to qin practice (“cao”); there are chang pieces and ge songs; in respect of shi poems, there are cao pieces and yin pieces, and all are encompassed by the generic term “cao”. Regarding pieces of the chang type, the term “chang” emphasizes their aspirational nature. Huan Tan in Xin lun: “The notion ‘connecting’ is to the benefit of the world, and there is nothing to which a progression is not made thereto.” Regarding pieces of the cao type, they exhibit moral principles. Xin lun: “Through the discipline of adversity comes the practice of solitary self-cultivation and in this way not losing moral principles thereto.”’ 琴操之體不一,有暢有歌,詩有操有引,而統謂之操。暢者,暢其志。桓譚《新論》:達則兼善天下,無不通暢是也。操者,顯其操。《新論》:窮則獨善其身,而不失其操是也.42 (Both citations from Xin lun come in close proximity in chapter 16). Here let Ying Shao’s thoughts on the matter be laid out:


Fengsu tongyi, ‘Shengyin pian’ gives:

When a state is reached in which prominence in government is achieved and applied in practice in the implementation of policy, it can also be written into qin music to make exposition of its meaning and in this way made manifest to later generations. Let the fundamental proposition be implementation of harmoniousness and happiness and thereby composing music; pieces of this kind are called ‘chang’. These chang pieces narrate their pathway’s skilful flow, as if they dare not take repose in peacefulness, yet they are neither proud nor overweening, though those who love the rites do not use the chang form to express their intention.



Pieces that are created when encountering psychological blockage and anxiety are called ‘cao’. These cao pieces narrate encountering disaster and suffering misfortune, beset by difficulties and in dire straits; although in bitter complaint and blindly despairing, they still abide by the rites and righteousness, and are neither terrified nor petrified; the player remains joyful in the Way and does not deviate from moral principles.


Xie Xiyi (謝希逸, 421–466) in Qin lun 琴論 gives: ‘Harmoniousness and happiness and then composing music is called “chang” and means through prominence in government lending succour to the Empire and furnishing it with a beautifully smooth progression for moving along its pathway.’ 和樂而作,命之曰暢,言達則兼濟天下,而美暢其道也.45 ‘Anxiety and then composing music is called “cao”; in other words, from adversity comes the practice of solitary self-cultivation and in this way not deviating from moral principles.’ 憂愁而作,命之曰操,言窮則獨善其身,而不失其操也.46Chang’ and ‘cao’ parallel respectively ‘prominence’ and ‘adversity’. The Book of Changes (Yijing 易經, ‘Wenyan zhuan’ 文言傳, the tenth of its traditional commentaries or ‘wings’ [yi ], Part Two [of Two]) gives: ‘Suffusing (progressing) to the four limbs manifests itself in the conduct of affairs,’ 暢于四支,發于事業,47 which is an example of the notion of prominence. The qin by its very nature is reasonable, especially towards that which is in adversity and has not yet achieved prominence and has the function of preserving moral conduct and excising idle perversion, and thus causes the limited to be guarded unflinchingly, which is why cao pieces for the qin were composed in large numbers. Cai Yong (蔡邕, 132–192) of the Han dynasty wrote Qin Cao (琴操), and so did Kong Yan (孔衍, 268–320) of the Jin dynasty (sometimes called Qin Cao Yin-Introduction [ 琴操引]) in three juan; Han Yu (韓愈, 768–824) of the Tang dynasty composed Qin Cao in imitation. Many qin players in the slough of despair at their unrealized aspirations turned to playing their instrument and called the process itself ‘cao’.

Xunzi, ‘Quanxue pian’ 勸學篇 (essay 1 of juan 1), outlines the cao (here means ‘forbearance and integrity’) of virtuous morality thus: ‘From this it is therefore: faced with power it cannot concede, under pressure from the ordinary people it cannot be shifted, the whole world cannot ruffle it, life stems from it, death stems from it, and it is called the cao of virtuous morality. Only once the cao of virtuous morality is possessed can a person become steady, and only once a person has become steady can that person answer with action; to be able to be steady, to be able to answer with action, this is known as having become a truly mature person.’ 是故權利不能傾也,群眾不能移也,天下不能蕩也,生乎由是,死乎由是,夫是之謂德操。德操然後能定,能定然後能應;能定能應,夫是之謂成人.48 The application here of the appellation ‘cao’ is extremely interesting. In ancient times, ‘cao musical compositions’ (caoqu 操曲) were always played by those who had suffered setbacks and not by those who had achieved prominence. (In later generations, those who had achieved just such a prominence, such as Yelü Chucai [ 耶律楚材, 1190–1244] who could play fifty different cao compositions, were extremely few.)

The qin was the instrument of the literati social class, and it also carried theories of qin virtuous morality and qin cao. By the Wei and Jin dynasties, the term ‘cao’ was used in preference by all. Wendi, Emperor of the Wei dynasty (魏文帝, 187–226, r. 220–226), wrote Shi cao 士操 in one juan (The Official Book of the Sui Dynasty [Sui shu 隋書; juan 34] and the ‘Tang Treatises’ [‘Tang zhi’ 唐志; juan 47 and 59 respectively of the ‘Old’ and ‘New’ official histories of the Tang dynasty] both contain records of it, listed among the section on ‘Philosophical Works’ [‘Zi’ ]). By this time, explanation of the word ‘cao’ had however evolved from a Confucianist to a legalist significance. Remnant Sounds of Ancient Antiquity (Taigu yiyin 太古遺音; by Xie Lin 謝琳, fl. fifteenth–sixteenth centuries; ‘Qin you suo yi’ 琴有所宜, in juan 4) indicates that the qin had five types of ‘cao pieces of the scholar’ that matched respectively the five notes of the pentatonic scale: gong , shang , jiao , zhi , yu , and thus formed separate genres in their own right.49 Gong was cao of the scholar of virtuous morality, zhi was cao of the Confucian scholar, jiao was cao of the Daoist scholar, shang was cao of the hermit scholar, and yu was cao of the ‘Yellow Palace Gate’ official.

Given here as a diagram:

Table 1.1
Table 1.1

Five types of ‘cao pieces of the scholar’ matched to the five notes of the pentatonic scale

The five genres all have no relationship to one another. Of these, most worthy of notice is ‘cao of the Yellow Palace Gate official’. In the Han dynasty, the Yellow Palace Gate official had originally been a mid-ranking official, but in the Ming dynasty, his position became particularly important. Most members of Ming dynasty eunuchry understood the qin, and some even taught the qin; for example, the teachings of Xu Yu (徐宇, fl. thirteenth century), through his Xu-style orthodox school of playing, in the Ming dynasty Hongzhi era (1488–1505), were transmitted to the taijian 太監 eunuch official Dai Yi (戴義, fl. late fifteenth–early sixteenth century), and Dai Yi transmitted them to Huang Xian (黃獻, 1485–1561) of Guangxi province. Huang Xian wrote Wugang Qin Scores (Wugang qin pu 梧岡琴譜; ‘Wugang’ was Huang Xian’s soubriquet); he himself was a taijian eunuch official (‘Abstracts to the Collected Qin Compositions’ [‘Qinqu jicheng tiyao’ 琴曲集成提要], no. 12).50 The underlying significance of the eunuchry playing the qin was the suppression of desires and to refine oneself. Grounded in the rationale expounded above, there came into being the so-called ‘cao of the Yellow Palace Gate’, and how this terminology came about can be easily imagined.

6 The Qin and the Doctrine of Essential Characteristics (Xingming zhi xue 性命之學)

The qin was a tool for governing the human heart, and thus some have taken the qin and made a direct connection between it and the Confucian philosophy of essential characteristics. Li You (李尤, c.55–c.135 or c.44–c.126) of the Eastern Han dynasty in his Qin Inscriptions (Qin ming 琴銘) gives: ‘When the qin sounds its notes, it cleanses and purifies the evil heart, and even though its purpose is to rectify one’s essential characteristics, its emotional impact is nonetheless profound,’ 琴之立音,蕩滌邪心;雖有正性,其感亦深;51 which already argues that the qin could rectify essential characteristics and that the ancient qin moreover symbolised reason. In the collection of the Gugong Palace Museum is a qin made in Guangyao 廣窯 in the Southern Song dynasty that embodies just these values: refining one’s body and making reasonable one’s essential characteristics, and on it incised in seal script is the four-character phrase ‘refine, body, make reasonable, essential characteristics’ 修身理性 so it was given its name accordingly.

Ming dynasty Zhang Tingyu (張廷玉, fl. late sixteenth–early seventeenth centuries) of the Central Shaanxi plains (Guanzhong 關中) wrote Li xing yuan ya 理性元雅, a book divided into four juan that comprises mostly qin compositions together with their poetic texts. Its modern Taiwanese reprint does not include the introduction, and in order to read it Yang Shibai’s (楊時百, 1863–1932) ‘Qin hua’ 琴話 has to be consulted. An abridged quotation from it is as follows: ‘Common wisdom says that there are those who have broad knowledge of benevolence, righteousness, integrity, and moral virtuousness and yet are not adept at the use of musical pitches; it is not nonetheless heard that the rustic yokel can become adept at them. I regard music as having a direct connection to a person’s essential characteristics, and thus the rustic yokel is not necessarily adept by virtue of knowledge of the technical processes of musical performance; there are none, however, of benevolence, righteousness, integrity, and moral virtuousness who are not adept. The gentleman, when there is no reason, does not refrain from playing the qin and se, and it is not that the “gentleman” made of tong wood should not depart from making sound pleasing to the ear, but instead that it should not depart from its essential characteristics.’ 人有言,聞有仁義道德,不嫻于音者矣,未聞曲士能嫻之。予謂音樂通乎性命,曲士未必嫻,未有仁義道德而不嫻者。君子無故琴瑟不離於御,非桐君娛耳不離,便是性不可離.52 Thus, is explained the direct connection between music and the righteousness of essential characteristics. The Qin repertoire includes a piece Jing guan yin 靜觀吟 that has as its poetical subtitle and inspirational impulse ‘The myriad things silently observed: all is from this obtained’ 萬物靜觀皆自得.53 Ouyang Xiu’s (歐陽修, 1007–1072) ‘A Shi Poem presented to Li Jingxian, the Daoist Master of Wuwei County’ (‘Zeng Wuwei Jun Li daoshi Jingxian shi’ ‘贈無爲軍李道士景仙詩) also observes: ‘Putting one’s body into good order is like putting one’s qin into good order; rectifying its voice is a process that cannot be linked to crookedness.’ 理身如理琴,正聲不可干以邪.54 (From: Jushi ji 居士集, juan 4) The phrase ‘putting one’s body into good order is like putting one’s qin into good order’ explains precisely that the study of ‘qin orderliness’ (qin li 琴理) and ‘essential characteristics orderliness’ (xing li 性理) can be mutually connected endeavours.

Yang Shibai gives: ‘Those who study to become celestial immortals are mostly able to play the qin, and those who practise the art of playing the qin are also fond of speaking of celestial immortals; for example, when tuning the strings, one should seek a mutual resonance between pairs of strings vibrating in relation to one another that resembles the sounds of the two characters “celestial immortal” and “old man” spoken in succession. In the qin repertoire, the following pieces are all Daoist tracts: “Dongtian chunxiao”, “Yuhua dengxian”, “Jiu huan cao”, and “Xiexian you”.’ 學仙者多能琴,習琴者亦好說仙,如調弦以仙翁二字宣音,琴曲中〈洞天春曉〉、〈羽化登仙〉、〈九還操〉、〈挾仙遊〉,皆道家言也. ([from the essay] ‘Qin yu man lu’ 琴餘漫錄).55 He also discusses ‘the benefits of learning the qin琴學之益 saying: ‘Those who are good at playing the qin use it to refine their essential characteristics and to adjust their qi-energy and not simply to pleasure a listener’s ears. For this reason, Dou Gong (fl. early second century BCE) had a lifespan of one hundred and eighty years, and it is said that other than playing the qin, no other method caused this. (Note: according to Liu Xiang’s Bie lu, “Yue ji”; the twenty-third essay, entitled “Dou Gong” [now lost], probably gives a record of this.56) This is sufficient to prove that studying the qin is beneficial to body and soul and comprises a Doctrine of Essential Characteristics; it is a philosophy and not an art.’ 善彈琴者借爲鍊性、調氣之用,非以悅他人之耳也;是以竇公壽一百八十歲,謂彈琴外,別無導引之法。(案劉向《別錄 樂記》第二十三篇爲竇公。殆記其事。)足證琴學爲有益身心性命之學;道也,而非藝也.57 ([from the essay] ‘Qin xue wenda’ 琴學問答). In outlining reasons explaining why the qin is an ‘instrument for transmitting the Way and is beneficial for body and soul and comprises a Doctrine of Essential Characteristics,’ 載道之器,爲有益身心性命之學,58 he says: ‘When the qin’s sound is distant (ancient), one grows in body, and without the estrangement of interloping bridges, the player’s breathing becomes intimately connected to the instrument, which is beneficial for developing his (or her) essential characteristics. Also, if when playing, vagrant thoughts are stimulated, then under the fingers, the music will of necessity become disordered; similarly, without correctly worn attire, stern posture, and a level heart with qi-energy harmonious, then a piece cannot be brought to its conclusion.’ 琴音遠而身長,無柱隔閡,與彈者呼吸息息相關,是爲有益 性命。又彈時雜念一動,則指下必亂,非正衿危坐,心平氣和,不能終曲.59 Yang Shibai was a qin Master of recent times and these views are lofty indeed, and when he talks of regulating breathing and halting vagrant thoughts, also evident here is a close link to the chan school of meditation’s methods for governing the heart.60 Ouyang Xiu in his poem ‘Zeng Wuwei Jun Li daoshi Jingxian shi’ gives: ‘I regard it strange that Master Li is full seventy years in age, yet his face and eyes, bright and delicate, are lit like pink-tinted clouds at dawn or dusk.’ 我怪李師年七十,面目明秀光如霞.61 Thus, playing the qin can extend longevity, and here is clear proof of this.

7 The Qin Heart (qinxin 琴心): Ancient Citations

The ancients were fond of talking of ‘qin heart’, and of course Sima Xiangru’s (司馬相如, 179–118 BCE) ‘The qin moved (the lady Zhuo Wenjun’s heart to love)’ 琴挑[文君] is in that category (Zhuo Wenjun, 卓文君, fl. Western Han dynasty).62 Let the discussion not dwell first on the significance of ‘qin heart’ and instead cite a few examples that simply analyse ‘qin heart’. Those who are knowledgeable regarding the qin can, on hearing its sound, gain understanding of the player’s state of mind, and examples of this kind can be furnished as material for those who research into psychoanalysis to consider. Two examples are narrated here:

7.1 Killer Heart (shaxin 殺心)

The Official Book of the Later Han Dynasty (Hou Han shu 後漢書), ‘Biography of Cai Yong’ (‘Cai Yong zhuan’ 蔡邕傳; juan 60, Part Two [of Two]) records the following anecdote:

Among Cai Yong’s neighbours was one who had invited him to partake of wine and victuals, and when Cai Yong went there and waited at the doorway, he found that inside they were already drinking wine together to their hearts’ content. A guest was playing the qin behind a screen, and when Cai Yong had reached the doorway, he sought to listen surreptitiously and then said: ‘Ahah! How could you invite me with music to attract me and yet have a “killer heart”?’ Thereupon he returned home smartly. An errand-boy reported the matter to the host: ‘Mr Cai came here just now, but only reached the doorway and then left.’ Cai Yong had always been treated with respect by those of his native locality, and so the host immediately chased after him and asked the reason why he had left so abruptly. Cai Yong told him all there was to say. All were nonplussed. The qin player then volunteered: ‘When plucking the strings just now, I saw a praying mantis engaged in stalking a chirruping cicada; the cicada was about to fly away but had not yet left, and so in a quandary, the praying mantis repeatedly advanced and then reared back; my heart leapt to my mouth and my only fear was that the praying mantis would lose its quarry; thus how could my “killer heart” not manifest itself in the sound of my playing?’ Cai Yong smiled broadly: ‘This is sufficient to explain everything and satisfy me.’

其鄰人有以酒食召邕者,比往而酒以酣焉。客有彈琴於屏,邕至門試潛聽之;曰: 「憘!以樂召我而有『殺心』,何也?」遂反。將命者告主人曰: 「蔡君向來,至門而去。」邕素爲邦鄉所宗,主人遽自追而問其故。邕具以告。莫不憮然。彈琴者曰: 「我向鼓弦,見螳螂方向鳴蟬,蟬將去而未飛,螳螂爲之一前一卻,吾心聳然,惟恐螳螂之失之也。此豈爲殺心而形於聲者乎?」邕莞然而笑: 「此足以當之矣。」63

Also, late-Yuan dynasty Bei Qiong’s (貝瓊, 1312–1379) ‘Shendu zhai ji’ 慎獨 齋記 recounts:

In former times was a person who could play the qin. On one occasion as someone’s guest, he heard the sound of a qin and then abruptly left because he could hear in its sound a ‘killer voice’. At that moment, the player whose qin he had heard had seen a praying mantis that had extended its front legs and was engaged in a life-and-death struggle with a cicada; the player’s heart was instantly rocked, which made the erstwhile pure sound of ancient antiquity swiftly turn weak and insipid and suddenly become imbued with a killing and striking energy, and the guest had instantly perceived this. Even though the music had already reached the higher plane of its most secret territory, given this turn of events, how could anyone be deceived? No one can be thus deceived, and the feelings that well up from me when I play cannot be hidden.


(In: Qingjiang Bei xiansheng wenji 清江貝先生文集, juan 25, in the section ‘Zhongdugao’ [ 中都藁, juan 22–30; ‘Master Teacher Bei’ is Bei Qiong; his soubriquet is ‘Qingjiang’ 清江, which translates as ‘of the Qing river’.])

The ‘killer heart’ manifested itself in the sound of the qin, and those cognizant of sound were able to perceive it; from this is seen that the ancients knowledgeable of the qin were able, on hearing its sound, to understand fully a player’s psychological state.

7.2 Suspicious Heart (yixin 疑心)

(Spurious) Huang Xian (黃憲, fl. Eastern Han dynasty) in Qin lun 琴論 records:

Zheng Jun (‘Scholar-Gentleman’, an epithet for Huang Xian) departed from court in the middle watches of the night and played his qin and sang the set of songs ‘Bin feng’ from The Book of Songs. The ruler of the state of Qin sent his personal servants to wait on him, and informed the keeper of the lodgings where he was staying … Zheng Jun had set his qin ready and played until the coda of the set of songs ‘Bin feng’, but the qin did not rise to the occasion, and that must have been because someone plagued with suspicion had transmitted his state of mind to it; was it the ruler of the state of Qin who had done this? … therefore, Zheng Jun remarked: ‘Suspicion is the gateway to the realm of ghosts, whereas enlightenment is the hall of the spirits.’ The Gentleman eliminates suspicion and abides in enlightenment; I have not yet heard that he disturbs (expels) enlightenment and accumulates suspicion.

徵君燕居中夜,鼓琴而歌《豳風》,秦王使左右伺之通於館人。…… 徵君理琴至《豳風》之亂,琴不起,必有疑者感之,其秦王乎?……因云: 「夫疑,鬼之門也;明、神之庭也。」君子去疑而存明,未聞汩明而蓄疑也。65

The same passage also argues:

Suspicion is scheming; scheming imbibes emotional nurture from scheming itself as well as responding to scheming.


The qin can cause a person to forget scheming; in the qin repertoire is found a piece called ‘The Seagull and Heron forget Scheming’ (‘Oulu wangji’ 鷗鷺 忘機),67 and its meaning is precisely this. For Huang Xian’s thesis, see Qinding gujin tushu jicheng (欽定古今圖書集成; vol. 739; compiled 1700–25; found in the ‘Jingji huibian’ 經濟匯編, vols. 655–800), ‘Yuelü dian’ 樂律典 (vols. 731–740), juan 107, though it resembles a Ming dynasty forgery passed off as a Han dynasty original and is not found in The Complete Literary Works of the Later Han Dynasty (Quan Hou Han wen 全後漢文; compiled by Yan Kejun 嚴可均, 1762–1843), and neither does Yang Shibai include a record of it in his ‘Qin hua’.

Another passage, this one from the Guanyinzi (關尹子; eponymous text by Guanyin, late Spring and Autumn period–early Warring States period; ‘Section 3: Beams’ [‘San ji’ 三極]) discusses that the ‘qin heart’ can be differentiated into a tragic heart, a thoughtful heart, a complaining heart, and an envious heart:

Those who are adept at playing the qin, when they have a tragic heart, the sound is pitiful and plaintive; when they have a thoughtful heart, the sound is molto tenuto; when they have a complaining heart, the sound echoes round and round; when they have an envious heart, the sound is empty and void; therefore, when the qin transmits sound, it does so as a mirror to nearby objects.


Someone adept at the qin hears its sound like looking into a mirror that can illuminate the concealed minuteness of places in the inner heart. The examples cited above all explain that in a qin’s sound is reflected a person’s heart.

8 The Three Timbres (sansheng 三聲) and the Emotional Projection Effect (yiqing zuoyong 移情作用)

The qin has three fundamental timbres: harmonics, open strings, and stopped notes, and theorists often match them to Heaven, earth, and mankind, the sancai 三才.

The three fundamental timbres matched to the sancai

Table 1.2
Table 1.2

The three fundamental timbres matched to the sancai

Prior to the Tang and Song dynasties, the majority of notes used were dissipated notes and harmonics, and ancient qin players called this practice: ‘many notes but few words.’ 聲多詞少. In the Six Dynasties, Xu Quzhan (徐麴瞻, dates uncertain) of the Liu Song dynasty had already expanded the theory to comprise three timbres; Remnant Sounds of Ancient Antiquity (Taigu yiyin), juan 4, contains an anonymous tract ‘Sansheng lun’ 三聲論 that explains the notion of the three timbres and sets up the theory of these representing Heaven, earth, and mankind.69 From the Song and Ming dynasties onwards, qin technique became more demanding, and artistic theory relevant to different methods of plucking the strings was gradually perfected. For one instrument to be able to produce three different qualities of sound is the qin’s especially outstanding characteristic.

Regarding the guqin’s harmonics and consonant notes, for example, in the piece ‘Pu’an Mantra’ (‘Pu’an zhou’ 普厂咒), the whole piece uses intervals of the fourth, fifth, octave, and major third as consonant double stops, and in so doing has already strode into a mode of thought where music is read from written scores. In addition, performance on the guqin pays particular attention to fineness of weight of sound and touch, speed of execution, rise and fall, and ebb and flow. Occurrences of fingering practices that are slow and delayed, for example, of the type ‘great-moan-frees-monkey’ (dayin fangnao 大吟放猱), must be separated by more than the time value of four tied semibreves (one semibreve: four beats). Fingering that is quick and dexterous, for example, ‘fingered-tremolo’, even expressed with demisemiquavers (that is, eight notes to a beat) is insufficient. Also, the guqin attitude to modulations to different modes is that these simply do not occur inside a particular piece, and modal practice is grounded in the strictures of mutual production of the two different families of modes: and . If from a tonic, notes are produced four times in succession (that is, theoretical pure consonant fifths), then the five notes of the pentatonic scale are outlined (gong to jiao), and these five notes, respecting the mode and exchanged with one another, thus form melody that itself becomes musical compositions, naturally forming a mode that is called the gong mode. Western people are intensely in love with modulation, and their instrumentalists are no exception. Regarding the points made here, Master Zha Fuxi regards them as the reasons why the guqin has not fallen by the wayside, and when considering whether China has no music of an artistry above a certain threshold, views only the guqin as a worthy representative. (See: introduction to Jin yu qinkan 今虞琴刊序)70

In the field of aesthetics, the (German) word ‘Einfühlung’ means ‘objects and I are unified’ 物我同一 and the concept and term originated (in 1873) with (the German philosopher) R. Vischer (1847–1933).71 American psychologists have translated the term as ‘empathy’, and according to the word’s linguistic mien, it signifies ‘feelings are internalised’ 感到裏面去 and means ‘take my emotions and project them into an object in order to gain mutual enjoyment of that object’s life.’ 把我的情感,移到物裏去,分享物的生命.72 Zhu Guangqian (朱光潛, 1897–1986) in his Wenyi xinlixue 文藝心理學 translates it as ‘the emotional projection effect’.73 He does not clarify the origin of the term ‘emotional projection’, and in fact emotional projection is rooted in a celebrated story regarding the guqin. Qinyuan yaolu 琴苑要錄 (an anthology of the Zhengde 正德 era, 1506–1521) tells the tale:

Bo Ya studied the qin with Cheng Lian (dates uncertain) and was able to play after three years, but regarding the requisite silent and solitary state of mind as well as focused emotion, these he had not yet achieved. Cheng Lian said: ‘When I was studying the qin, I too was unable to project human emotions, so I took as my teacher Fang Zichun (dates uncertain) who lived in the middle of the Eastern Sea; let us visit him, bringing along some grain as a gift, and follow his teachings.’ They reached Penglai mountain (a fabled island in the Eastern Sea), and Cheng Lian left Bo Ya there, saying: ‘I am going to welcome my teacher.’ He pushed his boat away from the shore with a pole and departed, and for ten days did not return. Bo Ya became desolate at heart and craned his neck to look in all directions but could only hear the roaring and rolling of the sea, the mountains and woods were distant and dark, and the islands around all called out tragically, so he looked up at the sky and sighed: ‘My Master really wants me to project my emotions!’ thus he took up his qin and sang.

伯牙學琴於成連,三年而成。至于精神寂寞,情之專一。未能得也。成連曰: 「吾學不能移人之情,吾師有方子春,在東海中,乃齎糧從之。」至蓬萊山,留伯牙曰: 「吾將迎吾師。」刺船而去,旬時不返。伯牙心悲,延頸四望,但聞海水汩沒,山林窅冥,群島悲號,仰天歎曰: 「先生將移我情!」乃援琴作歌。74

In the Qing dynasty, Wang Zhong (汪中, 1744–1794) in his ‘Inscriptions of the Qin Terrace’ (‘Qintai zhi ming’ 琴臺之銘), gives: ‘Why should I pluck the strings and play a piece other than for the purpose of projecting my emotions.’ 何必撫弦動曲,乃移我情.75 The two written characters ‘projecting emotions’ 移情 are grounded in this notion and in fact stem from the philosophy of the guqin. The primal meaning of the German prefix ‘ein’ is ‘united’, ‘fühlung’ means ‘feeling’, thus ‘Einfühlung’ could be translated as ‘the unifying of states of mind’. ‘Sympathy’ is ‘the identicalness of feelings’. The sound of the qin can cause people to project their emotions and reach a plane where ‘objects and I are identical’. Master Zhu (Guangqian) introduces (Theodor) Lipps’ (1851–1914) ‘Theory of Projecting Emotion’ 移情說 that is used in the study of aesthetics to describe a journey from ‘objects and I forget one another’ to reach the plane where ‘objects and I are identical’. When Lipps discusses rhythm, he considers that it adopts the function of projecting the emotion ‘a feeling for beauty’; in fact, ‘projecting emotion’ in this sense was something that ancient qin players had already directly experienced, and let this observation supplement the deficiencies in Master Zhu’s argument.

Listening to the qin is also a kind of happiness. An understanding of music is a process that requires training and only then can the allure of the qin be fully appreciated. A painting executed during the reign of the Song dynasty emperor Huizong (宋徽宗, 1082–1135, r. 1100–1126) portraying listening to the qin depicts one person playing the instrument and two others silently listening. Liu Songnian (劉松年, 1131–1218) also painted a picture whose subject was listening to the qin. Longhu qinpu 龍湖琴譜 (compiled by Shi Guozhen 石國禎, fl. sixteenth century, and printed in 1570) contains a piece ‘Tingqin fu’ 聽琴賦 (poet unknown) in fourteen stanzas that has the following lines: ‘The night is still, and I play my jade-like qin as and when the mood takes me;76 where it is touched by the clear wind, the nightly glow is cold; indeed, not pausing, because this scene is itself someone listening who understands music; for were it not someone who understands music, I would not be playing for it.’ 夜靜玉琴三五弄,清風動處夜光寒,除非止是知音聽,不是知音不與彈.77 Thus, the player desires the appreciation of the listener, and the listener must possess an appropriate comprehension of the qin and training in the art of listening, and only then can true understanding be achieved; therefore, since ancient times, sighs have been regretfully heaved expressing the difficulty of coming across ‘someone who understands one’s music’ 知音.

9 The Qin Plane of Thought (Supreme Purity [taiqing 太清] and the Righteous Soul [zhengling 正靈])

In ancient times, Huan Tan wrote ‘The Way of the Qin’, of which only the opening passage survives; Juanzi (涓子, a disciple of Laozi 老子, 571–471 BCE) wrote Qin Heart (Qinxin 琴心) that comprises three essays, and this text is now lost and has not come down to the present day; only Xu Hong (徐谼, also called Xu Qingshan 徐青山, 1582–1662) of Taicang 太倉 who wrote Qin kuang 琴況 comprising twenty-four essays with an introduction by Qian Fen (錢棻, fl. seventeenth century) can now be read as an ‘exposition of the virtuous morality of the qin’. 琴德論. The narration by Xu Qingshan describes the qin plane of thought and serves as an expansion of the ancient theory that regarded the qin as embodying nine fundamental virtuous moralities (these characteristics are called: specialness, ancientness, transparency, stillness, sleekness, melodiousness, purity, evenness, and fragrance). The situation somewhat resembles Sikong Tu’s (司空圖, 837–908) Shipin 詩品 in that genuine fascination and excellent qualities remain unblemished. The ancients used the term ‘supreme purity’ to summarise these, as can be seen, for example, in Cai Yong’s Qin Song (Qin ge 琴歌):78

Refined be my heart, suffuse it in supreme purity 練余心兮浸太清,
Cleanse off the miry slough and have my soul in rectitude 滌穢濁兮有正靈,
Let harmonious liquid flow, my spirit’s qi-energy calm 和液暢兮神氣寧.
Emotions and aspirations peacefully moored, heart noble and pure 情志泊兮心亭亭,
Predilections and desires extinguished, let nothing arise from these 嗜欲息兮無由生,
Leaping above the Universe and shedding the commonplace 踔宇宙而遺俗兮,
Distantly aloft, lightly and gracefully, I journey alone 眇翩翩而獨征.79

This song is found at the very end of Cai Yong’s ‘Shi hui’ 釋誨, where he has taken up his qin and started to sing, and so on and so forth (The Official Book of the Later Han [Hou Han shu], ‘Biography of Cai Yong’). It is not recorded in any texts of Yang Shibai’s generation. Regarding ‘supreme purity’, Ban Gu in ‘Dongdu fu’ 東都賦 (Selections of Refined Literature [Wenxuan], juan 1) gives: ‘(You should) mirror supreme purity in order to transform your muddleheaded psyche.’ 監于太清,以變子之惑志.80 Huainanzi, ‘Benjing xun’ 本經訓 (juan 8): ‘Supreme purity’s natural transformation: harmonious and compliant, and also calm and silent; in quality, upright, in elemental nature, simple.’ 太清之化也,和順以寂寞,質直以素朴.81 Gao You’s notes read: ‘Supreme purity: a natural transformation of (the Daoist concept of) “no action”.’ 太清,無爲之化.82 The sound of the qin can suffuse a person in supreme purity’s natural transformation. Daoism’s highest plane ‘no action’ can cleanse the heart of its noxious stains and allow it to attain the status of a ‘righteous soul’, which is similar to Buddhism’s righteous fixity on the righteous path (Sammā samādhi) as the healthiest psychological state to be in. All desires are eliminated, all emotions and aspirations dampened, and a person’s entire self is dissolved in the ‘harmonious liquid’ of sound, and proceeding through the baptism ceremony of music, the epitome of humanity that is the perfection of self can be attained.

This kind of effect that ‘refines the heart’ can be trusted to make a significant contribution to mental hygiene. The educational practice of the qin forbids crooked desires, and accomplishment of its scholarly exercises is through application of the arts of self-regulation of virtuous morality and self-regarding sentiment. ‘Yue ji’ 樂記 gives: ‘When music reaches its pinnacle, it is devoid of resentment’ 樂至則無怨 and ‘great music is in concord with heaven and earth.’ 大樂與天地同和.83 The sound of the qin can cause a person to reach a harmonious plane of thought. Under normal circumstances, music is the kiln in which the clay of a person’s character can be fired, and it can transform temperament. In these aspects the guqin puts forth great strength. Ancient China’s ‘doctrine of the qin’s virtuous morality’, 琴德說, in today’s world that talks of ‘in-depth psychology’ and ‘mental hygiene’ could undoubtedly have great use and would seem to be imbued with a modern significance, and the opportunity should not be let slip. Thus, acquiring an understanding of qin sound is really an enjoyment of the mind. As far as those who play the instrument are concerned, it is also a chance for smelting the metal of virtuous morality that is not to be lost. Shelley in A Defence of Poetry gives: ‘The greater origin of morality is benevolent love and lies in transcending the lower self and communing with all selfless thought … and unifying with ingenious beauty … in order to reach the goodness that abides in morality.’ 道德的大原在仁愛,在脫離小我,與非我所有的思想…… 和美妙相同一…… 以到道德上的善.84 The efficacy of the qin is precisely this. Ji Kang in ‘Qin fu’: ‘Render the centricity of the totality harmonious to unify and lead all things’ 總中和以統物,85 and also ‘Take sensitivity from Heaven and earth to engender harmoniousness.’ 感天地以致和.86 (Records of Rites, ‘Yue ji’ 樂記 gives: ‘The Sage makes music in answer to Heaven; and formulates the rites in answer to the earth.’ 聖人作樂以應天,制禮以應[配]地.87) When expressed in the sound of the qin, this could be called a plane of thought comprising both Heaven and earth.

10 Qin Heart (qinxin 琴心) and Daoist Texts

The process of using the qin to refine the heart was known by the ancients as ‘qin heart’. Daoist texts customarily used the qin to represent a harmonious plane of thought, therefore Huangting neijing jing 黃庭内景經 (a revelatory text received by Wei Huacun 魏華存, 252–334) is also called Taishang qinxin wen 太上琴心文.88 The book also includes Liangqiuzi’s (梁丘子, fl. eighth century) notes to the introduction, which read:

Of the myriad natural laws, mankind is the host, and for mankind, it is the heart that is the crux. Were there no host, then natural laws would not have been born; were there no heart, then the body could not stand upright. The heart and natural laws have many manifestations, and those that are delved and used are not all identical.


It also gives:

The qin represents harmoniousness; and playing richly on it can harmonize the six fu internal organs, calm the heart and spirit, and cause a person to attain the spirithood of a celestial immortal.


Huangting neijing jing, ‘Shangqing zhang’ 上清章 (stanza 1) has the two lines: ‘Qin heart, three layers, dance with the embryo celestial immortals; Nine Ethers reflecting brightness emerge from the nine heavenly layers.’ 琴心三疊舞胎仙,九氣映明出霄間.91 Liu Changsheng’s (劉長生, 1147–1203, also called Liu Chuxuan 劉處玄) notes to these lines are: ‘The qin caresses the heart from inside, and its melodiousness penetrates the highest turquoise heaven; the embryo celestial immortals’ dance finished, the entire sky is brightly illuminated.’ 心琴内撫,韻透青霄;胎仙舞就,靈耀彰昭.92 Liangqiuzi’s notes are: ‘The qin is harmoniousness; the “three layers” are the “three elixir fields” of the body (between the eyebrows, mid-thorax, and lower abdomen), which means they interact in multiple layers with all the bodily organs; “embryo celestial immortals” are the souls of embryos; the Greater Deity is also called the “embryo perfected being” and lives between the eyebrows an inch behind the skull. He who is called Lord Lao of the Three Purities Palace is the ruler of the Yellow Court, and because his heart is harmonious his spirit is happy; therefore, he dances with the embryo celestial immortals.’ 琴,和也;三疊三丹田,謂與諸宮重疊也;胎仙即胎靈;大神亦曰胎真,居明堂中。所謂三老君爲黃庭之主,以其心和則神悅,故儛胎仙也.93 (Note: Huangting neijing jing ‘Ruode zhang’ 若得章 [stanza 19; has as its opening line] ‘If one were to obtain the magic elixir kept in the constellations the Three Palaces,’ 若得三宮存玄丹,94 which elaborates the doctrine of the Three Palaces.)

Li Bai (李白, 701–762) in ‘Lushan yao’ 廬山謠 gives: ‘Having first fed on reconstituted dan elixir, with no emotion left for this world; qin heart, three layers, the Way begins to form itself.’ 早服還丹無世情,琴心三疊道初成.95 Its meaning is grounded in the explanation given above. Yang Shibai loved the qin, and his literary studio was called ‘Parlour of the Dancing Embryo Celestial Immortals’ (Wutai xianguan 舞胎仙館). His Qinxue congshu 琴學叢書 does not offer an explanation for this name, though it is in fact a quotation from Huangting neijing jing. Investigation of the book Qin Heart indicates it was originally written by Juanzi. Liu Xie (劉勰, 465–521) had apparently had sight of it, so he penned the phrase: ‘(In former times books that had the formula ‘… Heart’ as their title included) Juanzi’s Qin Heart and Wang Sun’s Ingenious Heart. 涓子琴心、王孫巧心.’96 (See: Wenxin diaolong 文心雕龍, ‘Xuzhi pian’ 序志篇 [the fiftieth and last essay in the book; this particular Wang Sun is untraceable]). Li Shan’s (李善, 630–689) notes to Ji Kang’s ‘Qin fu’ (as found in juan 18 of his exegesis of Selections of Refined Literature [wenxuan]) quote Liexian zhuan 列仙傳 (by Liu Xiang): ‘Juanzi was a native of Qi and enjoyed fishing with rod, line, and bait, and he wrote The Book of Heaven, Earth, and Mankind that comprises thirty-eight essays … he formulated Boyang’s (Boyang: one of Laozi’s soubriquets) teachings on the spiritual exercises of the Nine Celestial Beings. The ruler of Huainan obtained copies of a few of his writings but could not understand their meaning. His Qin Heart comprising three essays exhibits both clarity and reasonableness.’ 涓子齊人,好餌術,言天地人經三十八篇。……造伯陽九仙法。淮南王少得文,不能解。其《琴心》三篇,有條理焉.97 Juanzi therefore lived prior to the ruler of Huainan (Liu An) and is called by some Xie Juanzi and by others Liu Juanzi. (Qin History [Qinshi 琴史; compiled by Zhu Changwen 朱長文, 1039–1098; juan 2] supplements this by quoting Guangbowu zhi 廣博物志 [compiled by Dong Sizhang 董斯張, 1586–1628; juan 34] and Qin shu 琴疏,98 but the writings there are probably unreliable.)

In Huangting neijing jing, the meaning of ‘qin heart’ has probably been adopted from Juanzi’s text, but unfortunately Juanzi’s book has not survived. In Huangting neijing jing, regarding the wording ‘dance with the embryo celestial immortals’, 舞胎仙, ‘embryos’ is in fact a metaphor for ‘celestial cranes’ (xianhe 仙鶴). Bao Zhao (鮑照, 414–466) in ‘Wuhe fu’ 舞鶴賦: ‘Foraging though gleanings of mystic texts to investigate the object in question, (the crane) is a celestial bird that has evolved from strange and special embryos.’ 散幽經以驗物,偉胎化之仙禽.99 ‘The Rock Inscription on burying the Crane’ (‘Yihe ming’ 瘞鶴銘; by Tao Hongjing 陶弘景, 456–536) of the Liang dynasty gives: ‘On the subject of this embryo bird, Fu Qiu (fl. sixth century BCE) has written a canonic text.’ 相此胎禽,浮丘著經.100 Regarding the crane’s status as a celestial bird, see Li Shan’s note (in Selections of Refined Literature [Wenxuan] to Bao Zhao’s ‘Wuhe fu’) that quotes (Fu Qiu’s) Xianghe jing 相鶴經. In recent years in Changsha, on a newly unearthed ancient painting on silk is depicted a celestial immortal riding a dragon, at whose tail is a crane and at whose head a carp. From this it can be understood that ‘dancing with the embryo celestial immortals’ is in fact taking the crane and using it as a metaphor, and this awareness was already in existence prior to the Han dynasty.

Using the qin as a metaphor for ‘harmoniousness’ is found in Daoist texts, for example, Zhen gao 真誥 (by Tao Hongjing), ‘Zhenming pian’ 甄命篇 (essay 2): ‘The perfected being who surpasses the supreme gives forth discourse on playing the qin thus: “The strings must be strung to a mid-tension, neither too slack nor too tight, and studying the Way is of a like manner: that which is harboured in the heart must be suitably tempered, just like playing a qin, and thus the Way can be obtained.”’ 太上真人論彈琴謂: 「弦須得中,不緩不急,學道亦然,執心調適,亦如彈琴,道可得矣」.101 The Xiang’er Commentary on the Laozi (Laozi Xiang’er zhu 老子想爾注; by Zhang Daoling 張道陵, 34–156 CE) gives: ‘The Way esteems the middle path and harmoniousness, and when the middle path is taken, it is travelled with harmoniousness.’ 道貴中和,當中和行之.102 Thus, adherents to Daoism take the qin to represent ‘harmoniousness’. Huangting neijing jing is also called Taishang qinxin wen 太上琴心文, which is another means for saying that it can engender harmoniousness, and this is the qin’s innate effect. In recent times, Hu Zifu (胡滋甫, fl. early twentieth century) in his ‘Explanation of Qin Heart’ (‘Qinxin shuo’ 琴心說) has expounded: ‘The spirits that are known by mankind manifest themselves in the qin, and those that are not known are not of the spirits’ primal spirit and travel silently in the empty gorge … All know that the cao principle of working out an idea in adversity manifests itself on the qin by means of rendering enjoyment to the heart and ear, but no one knows that its manifestation on the qin tempers my mind and body, aiding me in retaining a pure heart, nurturing essential characteristics, and consequently attaining long life; how tragic!’ 夫人知神之神,以形于琴;而不知不神之元神,默運于空谷之間。……人皆知操有形之琴以娛心耳,特不知因有形之琴,以調吾心身,存心養性以致命也,悲夫! (Jin Yu qin kan 今虞琴刊).103 Tao Hongjing writes: ‘Studying the Way is like playing a qin: that which is harboured in the heart must be suitably tempered.’ 學道如彈琴,執心調適.104 Thus, ‘that its manifestation on the qin tempers my mind and body’ 因有形之琴,以調吾心身105 is a meaning that is linked in precisely. In later generations, when whistling was discussed, the qin was also a wellspring, for example, Sun Guang (孫廣, fl. eighth century) in (the introduction to) his Xiao zhi 嘯旨 indicates this meaning and gives: ‘Lord Lao who surpasses the supreme initiated a lineage of succession that the Emperor Shun performed as the qin.’ 太上老君相次傳授,舜演爲琴.106 Here, the qin is transmitted directly by Lord Lao who surpasses the supreme, how could this not be laughable! Feng Yan (fl. eighth century) in his Record of the Heard and the Seen (Wenjian ji 聞見記) refutes Sun Guang and satirises his adulatory elaboration of the lineage as excessive (see juan 5, entry for Xiao zhi) and so be it!

11 Qin Principles and Yoga

‘The qin embodies restraint.’ 琴者,禁也. This was the definition employed by the Eastern Han dynasty. This meaning is extremely similar to that of The Yoga Sutra (Yujia jing 瑜伽經), that is, the ancient Indian classical text The Yoga Sūtra of Patañjali. This book comprises four sections of which the first is called ‘Samādhi Pāda’ (transliterated into Chinese as ‘Sanmei fen’ 三昧分), and in the opening juan, the second sentence reads: ‘Yoga’s citta vṛtti nirodhaḥ’ (‘Yoga is the inhibition of the modifications of the mind.’); a Chinese translation has not yet been made of this Sutra, so this quotation is from an English translation by the Indian scholar I. K. Taimni in his The Science of Yoga, 1961, Madras). ‘Nirodhaḥ’ carries the meaning ‘inhibition, suppression, stoppage, restraint’, which is entirely congruent with the Chinese term (translated here as ‘restraint’); because without forbidding crooked thoughts, the rectified heart cannot store sincerity. When Gautama Buddha lectured on the Four Noble Truths (Si sheng di 四聖諦), nirodhaḥ was one of these: ‘cessation of perception and feeling’ (mie di 滅諦). This holy truth is named in this way as a holy truth of bitter extermination, that is, Nirvāna (niepan 涅槃) (according to W[alpola]. Rahula [Thero, 1907–1997] of the University of Ceylon); in Pali: Nibbāna, in Sanskrit: Nirvāna. The original Pali source for the word is: ‘When all the conditioned dharmas (laws or truths) are halted, when all pollutants are abandoned, when greed and desire are, in quietness, destroyed, this is nirvāna.’ 一切有爲法之止息,放棄一切污染,斷絕貪、欲、寂滅,是爲涅槃.107 ‘When greed, angry glares, and idiocy are extinguished and exterminated, this is nirvāna.’ 貪、瞋、痴熄滅,是爲涅槃.108 If one desires to achieve nirvāna, one must first restrain and eliminate crooked thoughts (relinquishing these comes prior to concentrating one’s thoughts on something). The teachings of Buddhism are first to cultivate a healthy and calm psyche, and the doctrinal methods required for undergoing the refining practice that pertains to this process are identical to yoga. In the original Pali texts, the ‘refining practice’ (xiuxi 修習) is ‘Bhāvanā’, in English translated as ‘meditation’ (chensi 沉思), but this word is inadequate to express the whole idea. The Chinese term ‘searching in darkness’ (mingsuo 冥索) is simply negative in its connotations, whereas bhāvanā is in fact positive. Its importance lies in nurture and development of the heart and soul. On the one hand, the psyche should be cleansed and purified of layer upon layer of vile components, and on the other, concentration of attention fostered, and the whole developed into a state of ‘Greater Enlightenment’ (da qingming 大清明) replete with aspirations and qi-energy of a spirit-like quality. The qin, by means of refining the heart and constraining perversion, and cleansing and purifying the filthy and turgid, cultivates the rectified soul, and the final plane of thought that is sought shares many common features with the ideals and aims of yoga.

12 The Notion of ‘the Qin without Strings’ (wuxian qin 無弦琴) and ‘Music without Sound’ (wusheng zhi yue 無聲之樂)

Tao Yuanming (陶淵明, 365–427) ‘kept in his possession an unadorned qin that was not equipped with strings or hui nodes of vibration, and whenever he met with friends to drink wine together, he would pluck it and knock it, saying: “I only recognise the attraction that resides in the qin, so why should I burden myself with sound produced by strings.”’ 蓄素琴一張,絃徽不具,每朋酒之會,則撫而叩之曰: 「但識琴中趣,何勞絃上聲」.109 (See: Lianshe gaoxian zhuan 蓮社高賢傳) The Official Book of the Song Dynasty (Song shu 宋書), ‘Yin yi zhuan’ 隱逸傳 (juan 93): ‘(Tao) Qian (Tao Yuanming’s formal name) did not understand musical sound and kept in his possession an unadorned qin that had no strings, and every time in the warm and happy afterglow of having drunk some wine, he would pluck it in order to project his emotions on to it.’ 潛不解音聲,而蓄素琴一張,無絃,每有酒適,輒撫弄以寄其意 (This plagiarises Xiao Tong’s ‘Biography of Tao Yuanming’ [‘Tao Yuanming zhuan’ 陶淵明傳] found in: The Collected Works of Tao Yuanming [Tao Yuanming ji 陶淵明集] compiled by Xiao Tong.)110 The Official Book of the Jin Dynasty (Jin shu 晉書), ‘Yinyi zhuan’ 隱逸傳 (juan 94) gives: ‘… and whenever he (Tao Yuanming) met with friends to drink wine, he would pluck his qin and harmonise himself with it, saying, “I only recognise the attraction that resides in the qin, so why should I burden myself with sound produced by strings.”’ 每朋酒之會,則撫而和之,曰但識琴中趣,何勞絃上聲.111

Su Dongpo (蘇東坡, 1037–1101) once quoted these two lines of Tao Yuanming and discussed them (in juan 57 of Jing jin Dongpo wenji shilüe 經進東坡文集事略 compiled by Lang Ye 郎曄, fl. Southern Song dynasty), saying: ‘Tao Yuanming was not someone who had achieved prominence in government; the five notes and six musical modes do not inhibit the attainment of prominence; if the situation were otherwise, only the absence of a qin itself would be a prerequisite, and why simply the absence of strings?’ 淵明非達者也,五音六律,不害爲達;苟爲不然,無琴可也,和獨絃乎?112 In answer, I will let Tao Yuanming speak for himself: ‘When I was young, I liked qin books;’ 少好琴書; ‘I take pleasure in qin books in order to quell anxiety.’ 樂琴書以消憂.113 Thus, he did not necessarily fail to understand musical notes and modes. He also said: ‘Harmoniousness is created by the seven strings.’ 和以七絃.114 In addition, how can it be understood that he had no knowledge of notes? All that might be said is that he probably did not have the expertise of Ji Kang and Dai Andao (戴安道, 326–397). His ‘qin without strings’ is in fact identical to Vimalakīrti’s ‘silence, without uttering’ 默爾無言,115 and like Seng Zhao’s (僧肇, 384–414) Discourse on Nirvana (Niepan lun 涅槃論; chapter 1: ‘Kai zong’ 開宗) that gives: ‘Pure words, closed mouth, in the (ancient Indian) city of Piye.’ 淨言杜口于毗耶.116 (Wang Jin [ 王巾 d. 505] quotes from this sentence on ‘Toutuo si bei’ 頭陀寺碑.) Summarising its salient meaning, it is also why burden oneself with sound produced by the fingers? Here, the question requiring research is whether Tao Yuanming had been influenced by Buddhism; I am completely in agreement with Zhu Guangqian’s opinion, because in Tao’s poems are mentioned the (Buddhist) phrases ‘underworld requite’ (mingbao 冥報) (in the shi poem ‘Begging for Food’ [‘Qi shi’ 乞食], the line is: ‘[After death] from the dark underworld I will requite you and return the favour;’ 冥報以相貽.117 Tang Lin [ 唐臨, 600–659] also composed a poem ‘Mingbao ji’ 冥報記) and ‘voided nothingness’ (kongwu 空無) ([in ‘Gui yuantian ju’, a poetry suite by Tao Yuanming] ‘human life is as if evolved from fantasy; and in the end returns to voided nothingness’ 人生似幻化,終當歸空無).118 Hui Yuan (慧遠, 334–416) attributed great importance to Tao Yuanming, and the latter and his contemporaries Liu Yimin (劉遺民, 352–410) and Zhou Xuzhi (周續之, 377–423) were called the Three Hermits of Xunyang (Xunyang sanyin 潯陽三隱). Zhou Xuzhi served Hui Yuan much as a son might perform filial duties; Liu Yimin had close relationships with Seng Zhao and Hui Yuan. By this time, The Vimalakīrti Scripture (Weimojie jing 維摩詰經) had already been translated and Tao Yuanming undoubtedly had access to it and had browsed it.

Zhou Zhengfu (周正夫, fl. twelfth century) and Ge Lifang (葛立方, d. 1164) both considered that Tao Yuanming’s thinking contained Buddhist elements. According to The Vimalakīrti Scripture, scriptural chapter 9 (‘Bu ru er fa men pin di jiu’ 不入二法門品第九): ‘The Buddhas all stopped speaking and asked the bodhisattva Mañjuśrī: “What is meant by ‘the Buddha entering the one and only gateway into Buddhahood’?” Mañjuśrī replied: “According to my understanding, it means with other doctrines to partake of no words, no discourse, no indications, and no recognition, and to distance oneself from all questions and answers; this is what is meant by ‘the one and only gateway into Buddhahood’.” Thereupon, Mañjuśrī asked Vimalakīrti … “What is meant by ‘the Buddha entering the one and only gateway into Buddhahood’?” Vimalakīrti remained silent and did not utter anything. Mañjuśrī sighed in admiration: “How ingenious … to attain a plane where there is no written text or spoken word; this is how the perfected enter the one and only gateway into Buddhahood.”’ 諸菩薩各各說已,問文殊師利: 「何等是菩薩入不二法門?」文殊師利曰: 「如我意者,於一切法無言、無說、無示、無識,離諸問答,是爲不二法門。」於是師利問維摩詰……「何等是菩薩入不二法門?」時維摩詰默爾無言,文殊歡曰: 善哉!…… 乃至無有文字語言,是真入不二法門.119

‘Silence without uttering’ 默爾無言is Tao Yuanming’s ‘Desiring to dispute (differentiate) yet the words required have already been forgotten.’ 欲辨已忘言.120 (From: ‘Yinjiu qi wu’ 飲酒其五) It was Zhuangzi who had originally said: ‘In choosing between the utterance of words and the non-utterance of words: if one is uttering words for the whole of one’s life, then nothing will in fact be said; but if one does not utter words for the whole of one’s life, then no words will not be said.’ 言無言,終身言,未嘗言;終身不言,未嘗不言.121 (‘Yu yan’ 寓言 [essay 19]) As a matter of course, the non-utterance of words transcends and surpasses the utterance of words. All revelation of the Way can have three levels: 1: revelation through uttering words; 2: revelation through others uttering words on one’s behalf; and 3: revelation through non-utterance of words. Of these, ‘non-utterance’ is the highest stage of revealing the Way. Therefore, the qin without strings is in fact superior to a qin with strings and is entirely congruent with this tenet.

On examining a letter from Seng Zhao to Liu Yimin: ‘Counting back the years, it was in the (bing)wu year (the bingwu year is the second year of the Yixi era [405–419], that is, 406 CE) that Kumārajīva produced his translation and notes of Vimalakīrti’s works, and I, a poor and simple monk, at that time had planned to listen to them systematically … and to take them down line by line and produce a written text that could furnish additional explanatory notes. Now, because a messenger has brought a copy to the south to you, if you have time to make investigation of it, you could take it out to read … the most interesting issue that it addresses is “the non-utterance of words”. If words themselves are insipid and inconsequential, droning on and on unceasingly, then how can anything be left to debate….’ 計什師以午年(丙午即義熙二年,公元四六)出維摩注,貧道時預聽次,……條記成言,以爲注解。……今因信持一本往南,君閑詳試可取看……且至趣無言,言必乖趣,云云不已,竟何所辨。……122 (The translation by Kumārajīva [In Chinese: 維摩詰 Weimojie, 344–413] of The Vimalakīrti Scripture is the sixth that was made, and those prior to it include versions by Yan Fodiao [ 嚴佛調, dates uncertain] of the Eastern Han dynasty and Zhi Qian [ 支謙, dates uncertain], the latter of the second year of the Huangwu era of the Wu dynasty [224], and so on, that still survive today.) The works cited above all discuss the rationale ‘the most interesting issue addressed is the non-utterance of words.’ 至趣無言. In the third year of the Yixi era, the yisi (forty-second) day (when Tao Yuanming was forty-three), Tao Yuanming composed ‘Ci Poem: “Gui qu lai [xi] ci” 歸去來 [兮]辭’ whose introduction records memories ‘of the eleventh month of the yisi year’. 乙巳歲十一月.123 In the eighth year of the Yixi era, he composed ‘Chou Liu Chaisang shi’ 酬劉柴桑詩, which was probably when he got to see Kumārajīva’s translation of The Vimalakīrti Scripture. ‘The most interesting issue that it addresses is the non-utterance of words’ parallels the notion that the qin is at its most interesting without strings, and both concepts exhibit precise concordance in this respect.

Li ji, ‘Kongzi xianju’ 孔子閒居 tells that music without sound, rites without form and substance, funerals without special robes: these were the ‘three withouts’ (sanwu 三無).124 To illustrate the notion of music without sound, he quotes a line from The Book of Songs: ‘From morn to eve, implement Heaven’s commands in a magnanimous manner thus engendering peacefulness’ 夙夜基命宥密,125 and this is music without sound. (‘Zhou song’ 周頌, ‘Haotian you chengming’ 昊天有成命.126 The original meaning of this line is: ‘From early morning to late at night, obey then Heaven’s commands and implement merciful, benevolent, and peaceful government.’ 早夜始順天命,行寬仁安靜之政.127) Li ji, ‘Kongzi xianju’ also includes: ‘If music is without sound, then qi-energy and aspiration will be obedient; if the rites are enacted without form and substance, then both the high and low will be harmonious together; if funerals are performed without special robes, then the effect is to enrich the myriad nations.’ 無聲之樂,氣志既從;無體之禮,上下和同;無服之喪,以畜萬邦.128 If one desires to obtain the greater enlightenment of a heart that is clear and bright, then it can be experienced through soundless music; Tao Yuanming’s ‘I only recognise the attraction that resides in the qin’ and not requiring the sound of qin strings is a rationale that is also identical.

The Qing dynasty’s Yan Yuan (顔元, 1635–1704) when discussing the Way gives: ‘The Way is like the qin, and is brighter than all musical modes and rhythm, and could it itself be studying the qin? … A preposterous person indicates “the written score” and says that this is the qin … as if the written score could itself be the qin! … “Aspiration” and “indication” should be forgotten, just as “fingers” and “strings” should be forgotten, and selfish desires not allowed to reign free, yet with greater harmoniousness in the room, reacting to the yinyang duality, moulding objects to connect with Heaven, this is called being adept at the qin.’ 道猶琴也;明於均調節奏,可謂學琴乎?…… 妄人指「譜」而曰是即琴也…… 譜果可以爲琴乎…… 「志」與「指」忘,「指」與「絃」忘,私欲不作,大和在室,感應陰陽,化物達天,于是乎命之曰能琴. (Zhang Taiyan [ 章太炎, 1869–1936] quotes these few phrases in Qiu shu 訄書, ‘Yan xue’ 顏學.)129 The qin and the Way are intimately connected; these words get right to the kernel of the issue and so are cited here as proof and are also the end of my paper.

This paper is the script for the fourth lecture given jointly for the New Asia College (Xinya shuyuan 新亞書院), Faculty of Arts (Wenxueyuan 文學院), and the Institute of Advanced Studies (Yanjiusuo 研究所). It is also offered as a birthday gift to Mr (Qian ) Binsi (賓四; this gentleman’s name is Qian Mu 錢穆, 1895–1990; Binsi is his soubriquet) in his honoured old age. Added by the author himself.

Supplementary Notes

Yanshi jiaxun 顏氏家訓 (Master Yan: Yan Zhitui 顏之推, 531–591), ‘Zayi pian’ 雜藝篇 (chapter 19): ‘Li ji (“Qu li xia” 曲禮下) tells: “When there is no reason, the Gentleman does not remove his qin and se;” since ancient times, many celebrated personages have practised the activity of playing these instruments. Up until the beginning of the Liang dynasty, among families of well-heeled officialdom and the aristocracy, those who did not know how to play the qin were few. At the end of the Datong era (535–546), this custom halted completely. The music that had been played was however of a tranquil stillness that had been elegant and fine, and redolent of profound flavour.’ 《禮》曰: 君子無故不徹琴瑟;古來名士,多所愛好,洎于梁初,衣冠子孫,不知琴者,號有所闕。大同以末,斯風頓盡。然而此樂,愔愔雅致,有深味哉.130 From the Han dynasty to the Six Dynasties, qin culture was at its zenith and even reached the remote border regions of the south-west. In a Han dynasty tomb at Zhaotong 昭通 in Yunnan, clay figurines of qin-players have also been discovered (Wenwu, 1960, issue 6),131 and this can be regarded as proof.

As for the judgments of the Tang dynasty, as can be seen in Finest Blossoms in the Garden of Literature (Wenyuan yinghua 文苑英華), there were those whose conclusion was the elimination of all sound. Liang She (fl. Tang dynasty, in ‘Dui qin you sha sheng pan’ 對琴有殺聲判), for example, gives: ‘Having led the whole of my life in an elegant and refined way, and having formerly learnt many excellent qin compositions, and having had many chance encounters with music in the shang mode, when I played, those near me were always aware of it; instead, let a mirror be hung on a tree, and let translucency of a osmanthus-souled moon freeze on it: water stilled in a tray, like a frozen flask placed in a ewer.’ 平生雅意,妙曲先知。邂逅商音,有鄰便覺。鏡懸于樹,凝桂魂之澄定: 水止于盤,若氷壺之在鑑.132 Alternatively, there is also ‘You nu xin gu qin pan’ 有怒心鼓琴判: ‘“A” heard “B” playing the qin and said: “You are transmitting your feelings of an angry heart into your playing.” B reported this to others, saying: “The words of the song indicated a rough and violent musical mood.”’ 甲聽乙鼓琴曰: 爾以怒心感者,乙告誰云,詞云粗厲之聲.133 To this, Yuan Zhen (元稹, 779–831) answered: ‘By transmitting emotion into the qin and playing it thereto, both the music produced and the scene that inspired it will be harmonious with one another. If qi-energy and aspirations are flooded with anger, then the qin’s sound will burst forth in viciousness … encroaching raging that is accumulated internally will impact with impetuous staccato rhythm on one’s external appearance, calming not the Gentleman’s unquiet heart, and moreover still rendering tumultuous and inciting the lowly person’s vile temper.’ 感物而動,樂容以和。苟氣志憤興,則琴音猛起。…… 慿陵内積,趨數外形,未平君子之心,翻激小人之慍.134 (Wenyuan yinghua, juan 507) These two examples can serve to supplement those cited above relevant to ‘qin heart’.

Regarding images of dancing celestial immortals, in the simplified catalogue of the Gugong Palace Museum is a Ming dynasty long vertical scroll painting with text signed by Bian Wenjin (邊文進; the soubriquet of Bian Jingzhao 邊景昭, b. 1350) that is titled Taixian tu 胎仙圖 that depicts 136 cranes in a multitude of postures; a reproduction of it can be found in Gugong canghua jieti 故宮藏畫解題.135

Zhang Sui (張隨; dates uncertain) of the Tang dynasty composed ‘Wuxian qin fu’ 無弦琴賦. His song gives: ‘If music has no sound, its emotion exceeds twofold; if a qin has no strings, its meaning superior resides; Heaven and earth together in harmony have true interventionist power; why then should form and sound await one another?’ 樂無聲兮情逾倍,琴無弦兮意彌在。天地同和有真宰。形聲何爲迭相待.136 (Wenyuan yinghua, juan 507) These lines summarise aptly the ingenious purpose therein and are therefore recorded here as a supplement.


‘The manifestation that is of a lower order could be called a tangible object; the manifestation that is of a higher order could be called an intangible essence;’ 形而下者謂之器,形而上者謂之道; this quotation comes from The Book of Changes (Yijing 易經), ‘Xici shang’ 繫辭上 (the fifth of its ten ancient commentaries or ‘wings’ [yi ]); Jao Tsung-i has inverted the two halves of the quotation and it should read: ‘The manifestation that is of a higher order could be called an intangible essence; the manifestation that is of a lower order could be called a tangible object.’ 形而上者謂之道,形而下者謂之器. Zhouyi zhengyi, 7.344.


Gulik, Robert Hans van, The lore of the Chinese lute: an essay in the ideology of the ch‘in.


Liji Zhengyi, 4.140.


Maoshi Zhengyi, 4.345.

The Book of Songs lines quoted do not actually come from ‘Zi yi’ but from ‘Nüyue jiming’ 女曰鷄鳴, which is later in the same section ‘Zheng feng’. While ‘Zi yi’ arguably describes aspects of courtly life, ‘Nüyue jiming’ is an endearingly vernacular domestic dialogue between a loving husband and loving wife, he a huntsman who uses his bow and arrow to shoot waterfowl and she a housewife who cooks his quarry for them to eat, hardly activities commensurate with a shi official and his spouse.


Liji zhengyi, 2.52.


Xunzi jijie, 14.451.


Ying Shao, Fengsu tongyi jiaoshi, 6.235.


Yuefu shiji, 57.821.


Liji zhengyi, 39.1313–14.


Huainanzi jishi, 19.1343.


Huainanzi jishi, 19.1358–61.


Shanhai jing jianshu, 18.319–20.


Zhang Shu, Shiben cuiji buzhu, 355.


Erya zhushu, 5.171.


Liu Zhiyuan, ‘Chengdu Tianhui shan yamu qingli ji’, 98.


Zuo Qiuming, Chunqiu zuozhuan zhengyi, 29.938.


Han shu, 30.1711.


Yili zhushu, 16.348. For instance, two such mentions of ‘praise-qing stone chimes’ are found at the start of the seventh chapter ‘Dashe’ 大射.


Erya zhushu, 5.170–71.

References to the praise-se seem to come no earlier than the Song dynasty, for example, in Xing Bing’s (邢昺, 932–1010) notes to Er ya, ‘Shi yue’; references to the elegant-qin are found in Han dynasty texts. The numbers of instrument strings referred to here are first found in Sanli tu, though its author used earlier sources to compile his text.


This quotation is from the introduction to Maoshi 毛詩 (compiled by Mao Heng 毛亨 and Mao Chang 毛萇, both fl. early Western Han dynasty).


Song shi, 142.3343.

The quotation given here as coming from Jiang Kui’s Da yue yi does not appear in any version of the essay now readily available. It is however found in juan 142 of The Official History of the Song Dynasty (Song shi 宋史; juan 17 of the ‘Yue zhi’ 樂志), where the text cited most recently in the narrative is Shenglü jue 聲律決 (author unknown and the text does not survive). Jiang Kui is mentioned immediately after this quote and his Da yue yi is also cited earlier in the juan, but these facts in themselves do not mean that Jao’s quote is found in Da yue yi or elsewhere in his writings.


絃詩三百 is from Mozi. Mozi jiangu, 12.455.


Wenxuan, 16.715.


Ban Gu, Baihu tong shuzheng, 3.124–25.

The whole sentence for the se in Baihu tong is: ‘The se embodies thrift and embodies restriction.’ 瑟者:嗇也,閒也.


Xu Shen, Shuowen jiezi, 12B.18b (267).


Shuowen jiezi xizhuan, 24.14b (248).


See chapter 2, ‘An Investigation of Juanzi’s Qin Heart’ for a series of other quotations of a similar vein.


Ying Shao, Fengsu tongyi jiaoshi, 6.235.

This passage from Fengsu tongyi is only partially quoted in juan 579 of Imperial Readings of the Taiping Era and all that is given there is as follows: ‘The instrument known as the qin provides music’s unifying leadership. That which consistently constrains the gentleman …’ 琴者,樂之統也 。君子所常禁….


Liji zhengyi, 39.1309.


Liji zhengyi, 38.1295.


Wenxuan, 18.848.

Most sources give these lines as: ‘By travelling, were my heart to observe more widely, it would encounter the tranquil stillness of virtuous morality in music.’ 遊予心以廣觀, 且德樂之愔愔. Liu Xiang’s poem does not appear to have survived in a complete form, but these lines are quoted by Li Shan (李善, 630–689) is his notes to ‘Qin fu’ 琴賦 by Ji Kang (嵇康, 224–263 or 223–262) that is found in juan 18 of Selections of Refined Literature (Wenxuan 文選; compiler: Xiao Tong 蕭統, 501–531).


Wenxuan, 18.836.


Wenxuan, 18.836.


Wenxuan, 18.836.


Wenxuan, 18.846.


Wenxuan, 18.848.


Wenxuan, 18.848.


Zuo Qiuming, Chunqiu zuozhuan zhengyi, 45.1506.


Zuo Qiuming, Chunqiu zuozhuan zhengyi, 45.1506.


Wenxuan, 18.848.


Liuchen zhu wenxuan, 18.30a (339).

The Huan Tan and Ma Rong quotes given here are taken from Li Shan’s notes to Ji Kang’s ‘Qin fu’, and both occur after the line: ‘Among all the assembled musical instruments, the virtuous morality of the qin reigns supreme.’ 眾器之中琴德最優. This derivation is evident because Jao Tsung-i replicates Li Shan’s scribal alteration of Ma Rong’s lines by which the first two characters 昔師 of the phrase are omitted. Jao’s probable source was Ji Kang ji jiaozhu 嵇康集校注 by Dai Mingyang (戴明楊, 1902–1953) that reproduces Li Shan’s notes (but with acknowledgements, and also includes an introduction, perhaps by Dai Mingyang himself but the language and format are archaic). Dai’s introduction to Ji Kang’s ‘Qin fu’ also contains the quotes from Baihu tong and Shuowen jiezi that Jao Tsung-i deploys earlier. Hanshi 韓詩 is now lost but is cited by Li Shan’s note to Ji Kang’s line ‘Tranquil stillness, the qin’s virtuous morality, cannot be measured.’ 愔愔琴德,不可測兮. The citation of Li Zhouhan of the Five Ministers’ notes on Selections of Refined Literature (Wenxuan) also comes from Ji Kang ji jiaozhu.


Cai Yong, Qincao, 1.


Ying Shao, Fengsu tongyi jiaoshi, 6.235.


Ying Shao, Fengsu tongyi jiaoshi, 6.235–36.


Yuefu shiji, 57.822.


Yuefu shiji, 57.822.

As the original of Qin lun appears to have been lost, the two citations here of it come from Yuefu shiji, juan 57. The break between them is not found in the passage there and the whole is one continuous quotation. Note: the phrase ‘beautifully smooth progression’ 美暢 used here instead of ‘skilful flow’ 善暢 in an equivalent place in the citation from Xin lun above.


Zhouyi zhengyi, 1.38.


Xunzi jijie, 1.23.


Taigu yiyin, 4.19b.


Zha Fuxi, ‘Qinqu jicheng juben tiyao’, 1: 7–8.


Chuxue ji, 16.389.

Qin ming as an entire text does not survive but is cited in the Tang dynasty compilations Yiwen leiju 藝文聚類 (juan 44) and Chuxue ji 初學記 (juan 16). Note: the prevailing version of the first four characters of this citation is 琴之在音, which translates as: ‘That which resides in the qin’s sound,’ and is similar in meaning to the phrase given here.


Zhang Tingyu, Zhang Shichu yezu shanfang youqu gao, 6.16a (161: 592).


Liang Song mingxian xiaoji, 58.4b (1362: 683).

This line comes from a shi poem by Cheng Hao (程顥, 1032–1085) titled ‘Qiuri oucheng’ 秋日偶成.


Ouyang Xiu, Ouyang Wenzhong gong ji, 4.1b.


Yang Zongji, Yangshi qinxue congshu, 1.22b (178).


Bie lu does not survive. Kong Yingda’s (孔穎達, 574–648) Lji zhengyi 禮記正義, juan 37, quotes Bie lu as indicating that ‘Yue ji’ originally contained twenty-three essays, of which ‘Dou Gong’ was the twenty-third. ‘Dou Gong’ is one of twelve essays of ‘Yue ji’ that are now lost.


Yang Zongji, Yangshi qinxue congshu, 7b (374).


Yang Zongji, Yangshi qinxue congshu, 8a–8b (375).


Yang Zongji, Yangshi qinxue congshu, 8a–8b (375).


Yang Shibai’s essays ‘Qin hua’, ‘Qin yu man lu’, ‘Qin xue wenda’, and others are collected into his Qinxue congshu 琴學叢書.


Ouyang Xiu, Ouyang Wenzhong gong ji, 4.1a–1b.


‘The qin moved the lady Zhuo Wenjun’s heart to love’ 琴挑文君 is a four-character chengyu 成語 set phrase that originated in ‘Biography of Sima Xiangru’ (‘Sima Xiangru liezhuan’ 司馬相如列傳) in Records of the Grand Historian (Shi ji, 117.3000).


Hou Han shu, 60B.2004–5.


Bei Qiong, ‘Shendu zhai ji’, 25.8a–8b.


Huang Xian, ‘Qin lun’, 7a.


Huang Xian, ‘Qin lun’, 7a.


Liezi jishi, 2.70–71.

‘The seagull and heron forget scheming’ 鷗鷺忘機 is a chengyu set phrase that comes from the Liezi (列子; eponymous text by Liezi, 451–376 BCE), ‘Essay on the Yellow Emperor’ (‘Huangdi pian’ 黃帝篇; juan 2).


Yin Xi, Guanyinzi, 3.56.


Taigu yiyin, 4.12a–13a.


Zha Zhenhu, ‘Fakan ci’, 4.


Zhu Guangqian, Wenyi xinlixue, 235.


Zhu Guangqian, Zhu Guangqian meixue wenji, 40.


Zhu Guangqian, Wenyi xinlixue, 235.


Gujin tushu jicheng, vol. 739, 107 ‘Qinse bu’ 琴瑟部: 12a.


Wang Zhong, Shuxue jiaojian, 400.


‘As and when the mood takes me’ is a free translation of 三五弄, a phrase that may also indicate the title of a qin composition.


Lidai guqin wenxian huibian Qinqu shiyi juan, B. 1368.


This section of the poem is cited in juan 60 of The Official Book of the Later Han, but the whole of it is only found in Quan Hou Han wen, juan 73.


Hou Han shu, 60B.1989.


Wenxuan, 1.29.


The most common redaction of this passage is: ‘Supreme purity’s origin: harmonious and compliant, and also calm and silent.’ 太清之始也,和順以寂寞. Gao You’s notes then read: ‘Supreme purity: the origin of (the Daoist concept of) “no action”.’ 太清,無爲 之始.


Huainanzi jishi, 8.555.


Liji zhengyi, 37.1266–67.


Zhu Guangqian, Wenyi xinlixue 文藝心理學, 325.

A direct quote from A Defence of Poetry matching this passage is hard to find, but elements of the following section are present: ‘Virtue in sentiment, beauty in art, truth in reasoning, and love in the intercourse of kind. Hence men, even in the infancy of society, observe a certain order in their words and actions, distinct from that of the objects and the impressions represented by them, all expression being subject to the laws of that from which it proceeds. But let us dismiss those more general considerations which might involve an inquiry into the principles of society itself, and restrict our view to the manner in which the imagination is expressed upon its forms … It is difficult to define pleasure in its highest sense; the definition involving a number of apparent paradoxes. For, from an inexplicable defect of harmony in the constitution of human nature, the pain of the inferior is frequently connected with the pleasures of the superior portions of our being. Sorrow, terror, anguish, despair itself, are often the chosen expressions of an approximation to the highest good.’ Jao Tsung-i has seemingly obtained his quotation via Zhu Guangqian and the translation given here simply renders his Chinese back into English.


Wenxuan, 18.848.


Wenxuan, 18.848.


Liji zhengyi, 37.1274.


The first line of ‘Yanggu shenwang xu’ 暘谷神王序 to Huangting neijing jing reads: ‘Huangting neijing jing is also called Taishang qinxin wen.’ 《皇庭内景經》者,一名《太上琴心文》.


Yunji qiqian, 11.189.


Yunji qiqian, 11.190.

This passage is from ‘Yanggu shenwang xu’ and comes immediately after the phrase ‘Huangting neijing jing is also called Taishang qinxin wen.’


Yunji qiqian, 11.199.


Huangting jing jizhu, 135.


Yunji qiqian, 11.199.


Yunji qiqian, 11.236.


Li Bai, Li Taibai quanji, 14.678.


Liu Xie, Wenxin diaolong, 10.725.


Wenxuan, 18.838.


Qin shu is a lost text but is cited many times in juan 34 of the Guang bowu zhi.


Wenxuan, 14.631.


Tao Hongjing, ‘Yihe ming’, 47.6b (3220).


Tao Hongjing, Zhen’gao, 6.101–2.

Jao Tsung-i may have used a passage in the Guang bowu zhi, juan 34, as his source for this quotation from Zhen gao, but it is also found in the same form directly in the latter too (juan 6). His citation is not exact, however, and he may have employed an intermediate source. This passage also resembles one in the Sutra in Forty-two Chapters (Sishier zhang jing 四十二章經), said to have come into China in the Eastern Han dynasty.


Laozi Xiang’er zhu jiaozheng, 5.427.

This note is to a phrase that occurs at the opening to chapter 4 of the Laozi: ‘Although the Way is a void, yet using it, it cannot be filled.’ 道冲而用之不盈.


Hu Zifu, ‘Qinxin shuo’, 44.


Tao Hongjing, Zhen’gao, 6.102.


Hu Zifu, ‘Qinxin shuo’, 44.


Wang Dang. Tang yulin jiaozheng, 5.513.


Fotuo de qishi, 22.


Fotuo de qishi, 22.


Donglin shiba gaoxian zhuan, 135:17.

Regarding this citation from Lianshe gaoxian zhuan, the most common redaction of this passage replaces the character with , thus 則撫而和之, which translates as ‘he would pluck it and sing harmoniously with it’ and does seem the most plausible reading. Lianshe gaoxian zhuan is also called The Eighteen High Virtuous of the East Wood (Donglin shiba gaoxian zhuan 東林十八高賢傳); the entries for Tao Yuanming here and in The Official Book of the Song Dynasty and The Official Book of the Jin Dynasty are listed under his formal name Tao Qian 陶潛 and not Tao Yuanming 陶淵明 his soubriquet.


Song shu, 93.2288.


Jin shu, 94.2463.


Su Shi, Jingjin Dongpo wenji shilue, 57.948.


Tao Yuanming ji 陶淵明集, 5.161.


Tao Yuanming ji 陶淵明集, 7.197.

‘When I was young, I liked qin books’ 少好琴書 comes from ‘Yu Ziyan deng shu’ 與子儼等疏; ‘I take pleasure in qin books in order to quell anxiety’ 樂琴書以消憂 comes from ‘Ci Poem: “Gui qu lai xi ci” 歸去來兮辭’; ‘Harmoniousness is created by the seven strings’ 和以七弦 comes from ‘Prose Eulogy for Younger Cousin Tao Jingyuan’ (‘Ji congdi Jingyuan wen’ 祭從弟敬遠文).


Taishō, No. 475, ‘Weimojie suoshuo jing’, 14: 551.


Seng Zhao, Zhaolun jiaoshi, 180.


Tao Yuanming ji, 2.48.


Tao Yuanming ji, 2.42.


Taishō, No. 475, ‘Weimojie suoshuo jing’, 14: 551.

Jao Tsung-i’s quotation is from the translation by Kumārajīva (Chinese name: 鳩摩羅什 Jiumoluoshi, 344–413).


Tao Yuanming ji, 3.89.


Zhuangzi jishi, 9A.949.


Seng Zhao, Zhaolun jiaoshi, 145–46.


Tao Yuanming ji, 5.159.


Liji zhengyi, 51.1628.


Maoshi zhengyi, 19.1524.


Maoshi zhengyi, 19.1524.


Maoshi zhengyi, 19.1525.


Liji zhengyi, 51.1629.


Zhang Taiyan, Qiu shu, 151–52.


Yan Zhitui, Yanshi jiaxun jijie, 7.712.


Yunnan sheng wenwu gongzuodui, ‘Yunnan zhaotong wenwu diaocha jianbao’, 51.


Wenyuan yinghua, 508.7a (2604).


Wenyuan yinghua, 507.9b (2599).


Wenyuan yinghua, 507.9b (2599).


Guoli gugong bowuyuan, Gugong canghua jieti, 153.


Wenyuan yinghua, 77.2a–2b (348).

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